Archive for February 2007

Choosing an Automobile Dealership

February 9, 2007

The dealership is where most people will buy their vehicle be it new or used. Once you decide on model and style, how do you decide where to buy it?

Now I may be entirely off base here. It could be that all dealerships are alike enough so that picking one over another has no advantage. In that case, you mlght pick one that is close to where you live. Or, after reading this story, you may decide not to do business with any dealership.

I once had a truck that had a gas gauge stuck on empty. It only got about 15 miles to the gallon so I became very good at gauging distance. One hundred and fifty miles max between fill ups. That allowed a generous allowance which should have assured that I would not be fool enough to run it out of gas.

This worked for two years before I finally did run it out of gas. It quit on me while I was about two miles from home. It quit on a freeway just south of an overpass. To the right of me was an access road and to the right of that was a large Chrysler dealership.

I walked up the hill to the dealership to use their telephone. They allowed me the use of their phone and I called for a cab to take me home. The cab never showed up but over the next 30 minutes I got quite an education.

One lady in particular, was at her wits end to get satisfaction. Seems she had bought a brand new Chrysler van. It developed some sort of brake problem and this was the third time she was bringing it back to have it repaired. It was not just the brake problem than had her dissatisfied, it was the lack of service too. She had paid extra for super fast service and did not consider having to leave the van at the dealership overnight super or fast. The dealership folk were unsympathetic and almost rude, indicating that if she did not want to leave the van , she could get it repaired elsewhere.

As I sat in the waiting room, listening to dissatisfied customers, I noticed a regular stream of tow trucks. They would pull into the back lot towing a vehicle and exit on the other side without the vehicle. Either they were moving cars or in the repo business, or servicing other dissatisfied customers.

As one of the tow truck drivers stopped, I went outside to talk to him. He agreed to give me and my truck a ride home for 30 dollars.

That was nearly ten years ago. I have never been back there since and I have never run out of gas again either. Amazing what you can learn about a place just by being a fly on the wall.

So, if you have selected the car of your dreams and located a dealership that has it in stock, give them a visit as a motorist in need and see what sort of samaritans they really are. You may be surprised.

You might well wonder why I had it towed if it only ran out of gas.  Who, me, run out of gas?  Impossible!  It sat  unused for two weeks until I was finally goaded into pouring some gas into the tank.  Started right up.

Blems

February 7, 2007

Blems are tires that are blemished but otherwise servicable. They are usually offered at reduced prices and available through most discount stores dealing in auto parts.

Several years ago I maintained a membership at a local and famous wholesale store selling everything from tires to grocery items. A membership cost $30 a year but I could justify it by my purchase of tires at a much reduced rate. These were belms and the saving was significant.

One year I decided to replace all four tires on my truck and took off half a day from work to get the job done. Half way through the mounting of the tires I was informed by the technician that he could not get the tires to balance without adding a great deal of additional weight. So much so that he was unable to install the hubcaps.

Suddenly I came to the realization that I had stumbled into a store selling rejects instead of belms.

I had them remove the offending tires, reinstall the old ones, and made it clear that I would not expect to be charged for their foolishness and due a full refund.

I have not been been back there since and have shared my experience with all my friends.

20% OFF

February 7, 2007

That is what the sales ad promised. Twenty percent off. Meaning that you would save 20% over the normal cost. So on a $100 item that would amount to a $20 savings. Sounds like a good deal but how do you know that the item is worth $100? Maybe it is a $60 item marked up to $100, being sold for $80 and your expected $20 savings is actually a $20 loss!

Maybe it is last years model or worse.  It could be seconds.  Seconds are flawed mechandise that does not pass quality requirements yet is not completely worthless so it is offered at half price or less.

This is why it is wise to shop around. See what other stores are charging for the same or similar items of equal quality.

I have always rejected most of the sales hype that we are deluged with. You can go broke at a 20% off sale saving money. If I don’t go at all I save 80%.

The Final All Band Antenna Solution

February 6, 2007

When last addressed, my approach was to use a three band trap dipole to cover 75, 40 and 30 meters and rely on the triband beam for 20,15 and 10 meters.

Since then I have discovered that trap dipoles exhibit reduced bandwidth. The bandwidth gets narrower and narrower as more bands are added. Therefore I have settled on two bands per dipole and two dipoles to cover 75, 40 and 30 meters.

One dipole takes care of 75 meters and the 40 meter CW band. The other dipole takes care of 30 meters and the 40 meter PHONE band.

Both dipoles are mounted as inverted-vees one below the other and at right angles to each other.
Seems to work fine. There is no real directionality. Each antenna appears to be omnidirectional on all bands.

Securing XP

February 5, 2007

I have a number of computers all tied to a local area network with all of them capable of accessing the internet. Most recently this included my best computer an Athlon +1800.

I use the Athlon for my ham radio activities and it serves as a digital mode interface as well as a TV receiver and multimedia machine.

To make it work as well as possible as a multimedia machine I was finally forced to install XP.

XP must open a huge conglomeration of useless servers because a simple installation including SP1 and SP2 results in 21 processes hard at work trying to use all the cpu cycles my machine can provide. They are useless because I don’t know what they do and Microsoft is not willing to tell me. My guess is that most of them are data miners that have no business being there.

Recently I discovered that the ham radio computer does not need to have internet access. Furthermore, It does not need access to the LAN. It can do its job very well as a stand alone ham radio dedicated machine. File sharing is done with a portable WD Passport.

So, after doing a clean re-installation of XP I now have it running as a stand alone. The only way it can access the outside world it through the radio.

That prevents me from getting automatic updates on application and systems software, but I never felt comfortable allowing folk of questionable trustworthiness unrestricted access to my computer with no questions asked.

Some may say that is a bad idea. It will not allow security updates and may make the system less secure. Not so. I have no need to protect this system from a security standpoint because it is not connected to the internet.

Besides, folk who sell faulty software demonstrate a complete disregard for their customers. Would you allow such people unlimited and unsupervised access to anything you own?

My guess is that I now own the most secure XP system in the entire world without need for updates automatic or otherwise.

Spaghetti Sauce

February 3, 2007

We used to use Prego or Ragu. Now we use tomato paste. Why? Because a can of tomato paste costs about 20 cents while a jar of Prego or Ragu is more that 2 dollars.

You save about 1.50 per jar. Say you have spaghetti or pizza once a week and use one jar of sauce a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year times 1.50 is $78.00 saved over a years time. Not much right? Okay, then send me a check for that amount and see if you miss it.
The savings is not the only reason to make your own sauce. If we make it ourselves, we can control the amount of salt in the sauce.

The actual cost of turning a can of tomato paste into a jar of spaghetti sauce is a little more than 20 cents. You have to add basil, onion, garlic, and sugar or splenda. The actual amounts as follows.

One can of tomato paste

Three cans of water.

Two healthy pinches of basil

Two healthy pinches of minced garlic

Two table spoons sugar or splenda

One quarter medium sized onion minced.

Heat in a sauce pan after all has been added and combined. Heat it at a simmer until the onion cooks into the sauce. Add some chopped green bell pepper at the end for taste. Same for pepper, and other seasonings you might consider appropriate.
Takes about an hour or two to finish cooking. Then let cool and pour into an empty Prego or Ragu jar. Refrigerate.